Irish name: Spíonán
Latin name: Ribes grossularia
The gooseberry bush is deciduous. It is quite robust and can withstand most conditions, except it doesn’t cope very well with strong wind. Like most fruit bushes, it loves the sunshine, which helps to really bring out a full flavour in the fruit.
Have you ever been up close to a gooseberry bush? Like the blackberry, it is very prickly and spiny, and some varieties will take root wherever they touch the ground. They don’t grow very high, usually only to about one metre.
Early in the springtime, the whole gooseberry bush becomes speckled with the tiny green buds that are beginning to peep out. These eventually grow into dark green, glossy leaves and the thin stems become woody and produce large thorns. Sometimes, bullfinches can really reduce a gooseberry crop because the love to feast on the buds!
If you pass closely, you will notice the very small flowers that are bell-shaped and a soft yellow colour. Later in the summer, the familiar pale green-purple, hairy gooseberries swell up and are ripe for picking. Have you ever tasted a raw gooseberry? They have a very distinctive, acidy flavour that can be quite bitter and a shock to anyone who tries it for the first time!
How are gooseberries used?
Gooseberries are great fruit to use when making sauce for game (bird meats). In fact, the name ‘gooseberry’ was given to the fruit because it was used to make sauce for roast goose.
Have you ever had gooseberry fool? It’s a very simple dessert made by mixing stewed gooseberries with whipped cream – bitter and sweet all in the one dessert!
Gooseberries are the stars of gooseberry competitions in England every year! The most well known competition is at Egton Bridge in Yorkshire, where prized gooseberries are judged by weight, size and colour.